In Support of Syria

Syrian Refugee HelpHave you ever been someone’s answer to prayer? I don’t just mean figuratively, where someone tells you that you are a Godsend because you turned down the volume to Little Einsteins while she, in all her mother-of-five-ness sits slumped on the couch covered in day-old baby vomit.

Have you ever been a very literal answer to someone’s very specific prayer? This happened to me on Sunday morning.

Our pastor preached on the importance of international missions, frequently referencing the current tragedies facing Syrian refugees. Our church is sponsoring two trips this year – one to Greece and one to Jordan – both in support of Syrian refugees. I am already giving financially to these efforts, but during the sermon, I reevaluated if I should personally be among those going on the trips.

I’ve been on several international mission trips – some medical, some evangelical – in countries ranging from South Sudan to the Philippines. But this year, I believe I am being asked by God to stay and help people right here in my city. There is no need to travel around the world to meet the needs of the desperate and victimized. I live in a very international city that is a hub for both refugees and human trafficking (which often go hand-in-hand). This city is my home, and I believe my ministry in 2016 is to people I encounter during the course of my day-to-day living.

Once I established that I am not being asked by God to go on either of these international trips, I started praying and asking God what I was supposed to take away from the sermon. What was God’s purpose for having me hear those words that morning? God’s response was to draw my thoughts to a particular friend: Leanne.

Leanne goes to my church and has never done international missions before, but she had previously expressed to me both an interest in and a fear of doing mission work. And what God told me that morning is that Leanne has been tasked with taking the good news about Jesus to Africa, and her journey starts with taking a step of faith in going on a short term trip.

I spotted Leanne across the sanctuary and saw her head bowed in prayer near the end of the service. I prayed for her from across the room, wondering what God had spoken to her during church that morning. When the service ended and everyone got up to leave, I navigated my way through the crowds to Leanne just as she made it to the tiled hallway outside the sanctuary.

“Hey! Leanne!” She turned as I called out her name.

When I reached her, I put my hand on her shoulder and asked, “Hey, what did you think of the sermon today?”

Wordlessly, she raised one hand and directed my gaze to it. “I’m shaking,” she told me. “My hands are shaking. That sermon was for me.”

I smiled. “I know. That’s what I came to tell you. Are you going to go on one of the trips?”

“I don’t know!” She exclaimed, forehead lined with anxiety. “The Greece trip is kind of tugging at my heart, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. At the end of the service, I was praying, ‘God, I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me. Will you send someone to tell me what to do?'”

My eyes widened as her words registered. I was the messenger! The moment Leanne began praying, I believe God appointed me to be the answer to her prayer. So I relayed to Leanne what God had revealed to me. “Go on the trip to Greece.”

Leanne smiled. “Thanks for being obedient to what God told you to do. I guess now it’s my turn.”

We hugged tightly, both of our eyes moist, and I realized with a smile that now Leanne wasn’t the only one shaking. Our God is so good. He is not a God of confusion but a God of peace.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. -James 1:5

Authentically Aurora

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Thankful, Despite it all

Sudan waterFor each of the past five years, I have gone on an international mission trip. I remember my 2011 trip being particularly poignant because, after weeks of living in a mud hut in Sudan, I returned to civilization in the midst of our extravagant holiday season.

Over the course of a 24 hour period, I went from a bat-infested mud hut with no electricity or running water to the opulence and busyness of Christmas in America. I went from 118 degree heat – caked in mud and having not bathed in two weeks – to dressing up in fancy gowns and sipping champagne at holiday parties. I went from a culture where starving, impoverished villagers slaughtered a goat for me in thankfulness for my medical services, to a culture where people nearly slaughtered each other as they stormed the shelves of Toys R Us looking for a Tickle-Me-Elmo to ensure their kid had a happy face on Christmas morning. It was the worst reverse culture shock I’ve ever experienced.

I think I spent most of that Christmas angry with everyone around me for their utter lack of thankfulness for our very many blessings. We have a tendency to be a greedy, entitled, self-interested people. We also have the capacity to be a wonderfully kind, loving and selfless people.

Thanksgiving prayer2014 has been a hard year for me. I’ve been rejected and abandoned by a fiancéwounded by trusted friends, insulted by thoughtless family membersinfested with fleas that just wouldn’t die, and subjected to petty office politics instigated by jealous coworkers. But I still count myself blessed. I believe that God is good and that even my trials have purpose; they are for my betterment and for God’s glory. People are messy and will fail us, but they are still beautiful and carry within them the breathtaking story of redemption. And even when people fail us, God remains a rock and a refuge for those who seek Him. He is faithful, even when we are faithless.

I have been blessed this year because, even in my trials, God has allowed me to see the lovingkindness and selflessness that people are capable of. And I am thankful, despite the heartache I’ve endured. As my Dad always says (regardless of circumstances!), “Life is good.”

My prayer for us all this Thanksgiving is that we pause our frantic busyness to truly stop, right our perspective, and be thankful for our very many blessings.

“Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” -Ps. 30:5

Authentically Aurora